Deathdream (1974)
By: J.R. McNamara on September 19, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Stomp Visual (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Bob Clark Starring: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Anya Ormsby
Screenplay: Alan Ormsby
Country: USA
AKA: Dead of Night; The Night Andy Came Home; The Veteran
Deathdream is the movie of many names: Dead of Night, The Night Andy Came Home, Night Walk, Whispers, The Veteran, amongst others. Directed by Bob Clark (Black Christmas, Porkys) from an Alan Ormsby (Deranged) script, and starring Academy Award Nominee John Marley (The Godfather), Deathdream is an amazing entry into the 'living dead' sub-genre. Not just a well crafted horror film, but also a reflection of what the Vietnam war did to the families of some enlisted men, Deathdream stands out as a horror movie equivalent to the protest song. Debuting actor Richard Backus' performance of the character Andy is sublime. The nuances of the characters reactions to those around him could have very easily come off as hammy or ridiculous, but he walks that fine line between brilliance and over-acting.

Deathdream is the story of many a family during the Vietnam War who received THAT dreaded telegram. Andy Brooks (Richard Backus) tragically, is not coming home. Andy's mother Christine (Lynn Carlin) cannot accept this like her husband, Charles (John Marley) or daughter, Cathy (Anya Ormsby), however, through what seems to be an obsessive force of will, Andy returns home. But he has changed since he went away. Andy has now become quiet and reclusive, only sneaking out at night, so that when a strange spate of murders occurs, Charles looks towards his son's unusual behavior and puts two and two together, but what he comes up with is not necessarily the whole truth…

This tale is both moving and terrifying at the same time. The breakdown of the American family due to the horrors of war adds to the doom laden spirit that haunts this film. The unusual direction and clever script is performed by some quality lead performances with an unusual mood-setting score. The only thing that lets this movie down is some of the smaller parts are horror movie clichés performed by sub standard actors. Worth noting however, is that this is the movie that started Tom Savini on his illustrious career in splatter and mayhem.
The day time scenes are unspectacular but clear and distinct, on occasion though, the night time scenes do get a bit muddy.
It is a mono soundtrack that is suitable and has no apparent imperfections. It is a suitably spooky track with many subtleties that add to the films unsettling atmosphere.
Extra Features
There are two commentaries on this disc. David Gregory of Blue Underground and director/ producer Bob Clark do the first commentary. This is a fairly pedestrian commentary with no real great revelations, but interesting none the less (although his Black Christmas/ Halloween connection is intriguing). Gregory leads Clark through it and takes the commentary in the right direction. Clark references all the actors past work and makes comment on the political points in this film. The second commentary is by scripter/ unaccredited special effects guy Alan Ormsby, assisted again by David Gregory. Ormsby's take on the movie is both self congratulatory and self depreciating at the same time. Ormsby's commentary is far more animated and interesting, especially with the reference to the script-to-movie changes and the special effects situation.

Tom Savini: the Early Years is an interesting 10 minute look at where Tom Savini's make-up career started with many photographs and stills of both his cinematic and his stage work.

Deathdreaming – Interview with Star Richard Backus takes a 12 minute stroll down memory lane with Richard Backus, who played Andy in Deathdream. His recollections of his performance and the production are a nice supplement to the commentaries.

Alternate Opening Titles are just that, using the title Deathdream instead of the original Dead of Night. This opening is slightly more haunting than the actual opening of the film.

Extended Ending Sequence is a longer final sequence which was not incorporated back into the film due to its dubious quality.

Theatrical Trailer is the trailer for the film, but when it was titled Dead of Night.

Poster and Still Galleries are divided into Behind the Scenes Photos (which includes sketches and script notes), Posters from around the world, U.S. Press Book which has all the notes of advertising and such, Video contains Video covers from through out the world, Publicity Shots are photos taken from the movie and finally Credits has a special thanks to those involved in the production of the DVD.
The Verdict
An interesting insight into how much the Vietnam War affected the American psyche. It is not often that a horror film with a message delivers the goods, but Deathdream certainly does. A must see on an above average disc.
Movie Score
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